Fatal asphyxia by a thyroglossal duct cyst in an adult

J Clin Forensic Med. 2006 Aug-Nov;13(6-8):349-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jcfm.2006.06.023. Epub 2006 Oct 5.


Thyroglossal duct cysts arise from remnants of embryonic thyroglossal duct that connects the foramen cecum at the base of the tongue to the thyroid gland. The remnants enlarge secondary to secretions from the epithelial lining. Usually, thyroglossal cysts present as non-tender masses. However, they may also become infected, produce fistulas or give hoarseness and dysphagia. Rarely, especially if the mass is located at the base of the tongue, airway obstruction and dyspnea can ensue. This unusual presentation has been mainly seen in very young children and has caused death in about half of these cases. Nevertheless, in the adult population, very few cases of airway obstruction by thyroglossal duct cysts have been reported, only one being fatal. We present the case of a 55-year-old man who died from fatal asphyxia caused by a thyroglossal cyst.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Asphyxia / etiology
  • Asphyxia / pathology*
  • Autopsy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Thyroglossal Cyst / complications
  • Thyroglossal Cyst / pathology*